When I adopted mister harley, I decided (and promised the MSPCA) that he would live a life of an indoor kitty. I had always grown up with out-door kitties and that’s what watcher was, but I knew it’s a better choice to keep them inside. I know by keeping him indoors mister harley will stay healthy, safe and most likely live longer. Starting late last summer, I was noticing mister harley was acting more restless, crying at the front door and attempting to escaping when I was coming inside. I was feeling very bad for him, he was clearly not happy. I had heard of cats being harness trained, and we actually used to bring watcher with us camping and kept him on a harness and let him be outside. I knew if I was going to let him go out side, this is something I would have to commit to. I knew it wouldn’t be fair to him to let him go out on a harness but then not be able to do it again for weeks. So I thought long and hard, and decided I wanted to do this for him, I wanted my sweet kitty to be happy.
A few people have been asking me how I went about doing it so I thought I would share my thoughts here.
I picked up a harness and retractable leash at a pet store. The harness is a bit confusing at first, and I initially had it on him too tight – but I eventually figured it out. Mister harley has never been a fan of of wearing a collar, he hates it actually. When I first put the harness on him he literally flopped over on the floor with his legs straight up in the air and played dead. I didn’t even attempt to put the leash and bring him out at this point. I just say on the floor with him and pet him and praised him. A couple days later I tried again, this time he was crouching on the floor, and I went to the front door with the leash in hand and asked if he wanted to go out- he kind of just looked at me. I eventually got the leash on him and let him outside. Now he has gotten so used to it, as soon as he sees the harness and leash in my hand, he heads to the front door, and puts his 2 front paws on the screen door, waiting to be “saddled up”. From that moment on mister harley and I have had many adventures with harnessing, a few key pros and cons I have learned.
Things I have learned not to do:
- You want the harness tight, but finding that happy medium place is a bit tricky. If it is too loose he will obviously get out of it.
- I no longer let him go into shrubs or bushes. Not only is it hard to keep him from getting tangled in there, I have learned that when he is in shrubs he is able to roll his shoulders upward and hook the harness on a branch and get out of it ( I learned this the hard way when all of a sudden I saw a streak of white fly out from the bush and then spent over an hour trying to “catch” him – all with a sprained ankle.
- I don’t try to walk him, I let him lead and walk when he wants…. I even try to give him a little slack when we are in open spaces so he feels “free”
Mister Harley enjoys being outside, he is always alert and curious about when it going on in the yard. He loves munching the grass, keeping an eye on birds near by and just checking out his surroundings. I let him lead the way being sure to stay in our yard. When I am ready to go in, I scoop him up and bring him back to the island. I then take off his harness and we go in the kitchen where he gets treats – the whole time I am praising him. He still cries at the front door a bit, but I feel he is truly a happier cat.
Do you harness your kitty? Do you have any questions? Let me know I’ll be happy to help out!